It is still too early to forecast the format and the nature of the future relations between NATO and Russia. The Alliance has not yet worked out its official position on this score. This statement was made on Wednesday in Brussels by a high-ranking staff-member of this organisation. He commented for reporters on the results of the visit to Russia by Secretary General George Robertson which took place on November 21-23, and on the development of the relations between the sides. The spokesman for the Alliance pointed out that in any case the point is not the right for Russia to veto the decisions taken by NATO. The NATO Council will remain to be the NATO Council, he underscored. In so saying the NATO spokesman referred to the opinion of George Robertson who said that the Alliance's 19 member-countries want to be free in defending their interests. The NATO spokesman noted that the Allies would decide what and on what terms they are ready to discuss with Russia. Answering the question about the further fate of the Russia-NATO Joint Permanent Council, he said that it was the Russian side which considered that this mechanism had become outdated, while from NATO's point of view, not so much the form is important, but the commitments of the sides. The Alliance would like to make this structure more fruitful, said NATO's representative. Russia believes, pointed out the NATO spokesman, that the formula 19 plus 1 does not quite correspond to the requirements of the moment. In order to come to a mutually acceptable decision, he continued, it is necessary to have a political will on both sides. In the NATO spokesman's opinion, the Joint Permanent Council will not be discarded; the efforts are being made to find a variant that will make it possible to carry out common cooperation programmes more efficiently. According to the member of the Alliance's staff, next week the sides will have a chance to clarify their positions at the Council's session at the level of Foreign Ministers. It is expected that Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov will attend this session. Answering the question, the speaker said that Russia's position on the expansion of NATO had not changed, but this was not an obstacle for our relations. He also said that during his visit to Russia George Robertson was interested in the situation in Georgia and was assured that Russia firmly stood for the territorial integrity of that country.
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